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Monday, June 29, 2009

A Vision for Community Media -Part Two

It would be foolish to write about growing a public access television presence in Contra Costa if such a presence was just a hope or some other fantasy. I remember at a Concord City Council meeting a resident uttered his demands for the city to “provide” a public access channel with sufficient staffing and a satellite receiver to retransmit “Democracy Now” over the channel. OMG. It was an idea that once framed presumed its rejection.

The plan and subset of policies I present to you is reasoned, makes possible wide and easy participation by all citizens and results in a product that educates and edifies each of us. The purpose of this blog is to connect with like-minded people who can help construct this real-life media nexus.

Some background information first.

Please forget about “Wayne’s World” as anything other than a tired old joke that served only to trivialize access television. Think, perhaps, about the two well informed veterans talking about obtaining benefits and other dealings with the V.A. This blog is a serious conversation about a substantial community service.

Community media traditionally means television programs produced and prepared by local folks. Various groups in the community would communicate via video. Making a public access program requires numerous skills and at most places much more trouble than it is worth. Imagine an enterprise that involves several people, lots of planning, audio and video recording, CG, editing and post production to obtain a product that would be shown twice.

You gotta really wanna make TV to enjoy volunteering in access television.

So, surprise! The gotta really wanna folks seem to dominate access television.

There is a better way. It is a process that includes many more people and a much wider variety of interests.

Simply put: 1) Encourage all not for profit organizations to offer their already produced video programs and fill the channel with these messages. 2) Offer professional training in public relations and marketing to leverage effect of telecasts. 3) Offer professional video services in several tiers leveraging savings due to PEG grants but explicitly avoid using the access center to, in any way, compete unfairly with professional providers or organizations.

It’s the old fashioned way. This would be the first of many baby steps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Vision for Community Media -Part One

Most of us are familiar with community television in one-way or another. Mostly we skip by the PEG channels on our way to more entertaining fare. However, if the city council is considering action that would affect us directly then the “G” channel becomes important. If I am an English learner and I pass by an educational program called “Entering English” I would want to ring that “E” doorbell. And, if I were a veteran and came by a public access program with valuable information for veterans I would stand and salute.

Most of the time the PEG channels are like somebody else’s hometown newspaper and so we keep clicking.

And so we land at our entertainment destination whatever it is. We watch our program and move on to something else. But, if you have stopped by a PEG channel then you were able to see television presented as a utility and not necessarily as entertainment.

Now I am not going to harp on the vast potential of PEG television, or even whine about the less than vast actions of our local governments regarding PEG. I just want to think with you as a citizen. Look at your cable bill from Comcast. Near the bottom there is a .71 fee for PEG.

That’s it. You pay 71¢ a month for your PEG channels. That fee will be there until 2021. The purpose of this blog is to help make sure you get your money’s worth.

Please subscribe to this blog, make comments and participate in the growing of community media in Contra Costa County.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Access Contra Costa

Access Contra Costa is about locally produced cable television in the cities of Concord Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Martinez and others in Central Contra Costa County, California. In these communities Comcast Cable has negotiated a franchise that expires in 2021. It provides both TV channels and capital funding for community television enterprises in government, education and public access. These monies are not gifts, grants or a tax. It is a portion of the rent Comcast pays for access to the public right of way.

In the City of Concord. Comcast pays 5% of their gross (non-Internet) revenue to the City general fund. Comcast also pays an additional $.71 per subscriber per month for equipment to operate the community (PEG) channels as well as operate community data networks (INET).

If you compare these amounts to other franchises, Comcast seems to be getting off pretty easy.

Consider the garbage company in Concord. They pay a franchise fee of 6%, and provide free trash pickup at most city operations. Apparently they are putting out more resources than the cable company and at a lesser profit.

And, if you compare the cable franchise itself to other recent franchises in California it should be obvious that Comcast got the wheat and the rest of us are receiving the chaff.

This blog is about using these television channels to edify our community. To permit each citizen an opportunity to know what is happening. As our newspapers fail to deliver local news, we turn to the Internet and local blogs like www.Claycord.Com. These venues help us learn what is happening in our communities.We migrate from the television oligopoly to community media an open pathway to see and hear the events around us.

This blog will voice support for a system of local public and educational television that addresses both public desire and the fiscal realities of this enterprise. This blog will put forth credible, workable and innovative solutions. And finally, this blog will offer ways of improving the communication of those who serve their community and give them a greater voice.

In future postings there will be background information about cable access television, who is who in community media in Central Contra Costa County. This blog will be joined by other contributors who will create both a lively dialog and some serious action.